Sun sets on biomass plant plan as port firm switches focus

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a giant biomass plant could still be revived in the future, the developers behind the scrapped scheme confirmed today.

Forth Energy has announced that it has withdrawn its planning application for a £360 million biomass plant in Leith, sparking jubilation among community activists who campaigned against the proposal, which was one of the most controversial plans ever lodged in Edinburgh.

Bosses at the firm today told the Evening News that the move towards industrial rather than residential development of Leith Docks resulted in the decision, rather than public opinion, and also confirmed that the biomass option may be brought back to the table in the future.

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Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, which is a joint venture between Scottish and Southern Energy and Forth Ports, said: “For us, a great deal has changed at the port of Leith since we first submitted these proposals. Now, Leith is very much focused on becoming a hub to support offshore renewables, so the future is very much about renewables support. We evaluated land availability and decided that the right thing to do was to withdraw it in its current form.”

When asked whether biomass could be considered in the future, he said: “In terms of the technology, it depends on the type of energy demanded. We will revisit this with an open mind on what is the right technology at that time, so it is difficult for me to say what technology that will be.”

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, added: “It is a possibility. We have demand for renewable manufacturing and will want to see how that develops before we reassess what this requires. If we reconsidered it, it would more likely be for renewable manufacturing [than housing]. There is a good chance that would not be the same size and scale as the application we had in.”

The proposals sparked a major campaign, with 3834 objections and only two letters of support.

Charlotte Encombe, chair of Greener Leith, said: “We are hugely relieved that people in Leith are not going to have this built on their doorstep.”

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It is great news that Forth Energy has come to its senses regarding its Leith biomass plan and pulled the plug on it, and not before time too.”

It is understood that Forth Ports is expecting to announce a major deal for a renewable energy firm to set up business in Leith later this year.

Leith Liberal Democrat councillor Marjorie Thomas said: “Hardly anyone in Leith will not be pleased to hear this.

“Everyone has campaigned against it so this is good news. I hope we can now reach a compromise with the new owners [of Forth Ports] to find something that meets their needs and the needs of the community.”